Henry James: “The Altar of the Dead”

(1172 words)
  • Mhairi Catriona Pooler (University of Aberdeen)

“The Altar of the Dead” is a tale about a man who lives more with what he calls “his Dead” than he does with the living. Published in the collection Terminations in 1895, the tale anticipates the themes of obsession, the double and self-haunting in Henry James’s two later masterpieces “The Beast in the Jungle” (1903) and “The Jolly Corner” (1908). While “The Altar of the Dead” can be read as one of James’s multitude of “quasi-supernatural” tales in which an unseen reality has precedence over the material world, as Clifton Fadiman has noted “the tale is crowded, not with terror, but with love” (259).

Having lost his fianc&…

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Pooler, Mhairi Catriona. "“The Altar of the Dead”". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 05 February 2009
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=1615, accessed 04 July 2015.]